Ever since the Cubs won their mythically-foretold World Series in 2016, it seemed almost universally agreed upon that it was a sign of an alternate dimension being born. A reality TV con artist won the presidency in spite of being a sexist, sex offender, racist, bigot, and pathological liar. Millions of people read a conspiracy on 8chan about a pizza place being a cornerstone for child sex abuse distribution and believed every word of it. A musical about the guy on the $10 bill, while totally amazing as a piece of entertainment, will likely for decades confuse young people when they look at history textbooks and realize that it, like almost all of American history, centers around a bunch of dry white people. And then, right toward the beginning of the Christmas season, the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years. It was pretty wild.
Ever since then it’s been an unusual decline. Pitching petered out, but more than that, the team completely forgot how to hit. The monkeys paw must have curled in some oblong fashion to make a team this talent-laden be beset with nagging injuries and be unable to hit for contact whatsoever. There’s been a few high points since, but for the most part I’ve been bittersweetly enjoying the Cubs playing Bears football for a few years before the inevitable occurred and all that talent got traded away. It was necessary, but hurt a bit all the same.
There’s a few bright spots to look forward to, but there’s no clear picture about what’s going to happen next. Part of what made the awful rebuilding years endurable was you had guys like Rizzo providing that cheerful, “Man, I love baseball” vibes that you want out of a lovable loser franchise in a state of transition. You want to build around those guys to see them get their championship moment in the sun because they went through all that tedium. There’s nobody there currently that fits that bill. In a way, the whole franchise is still in a state of mourning, and virtually all of the young talent they got in the deadline trades won’t be field-ready until next season anyway, so for now? For now the team is playing the game of summer in a perpetual wake, grieving and drunk, hopeful but scared of what’s next. As are we all.
Sigh. I don’t know what to do or how to feel about the Blackhawks these days. Last year was a breath of fresh air of transition, playing a ton of young/new guys and, maybe just a tad, outkicking their coverage in terms of expectations. Going into the 2021/22 season, the product on the ice should be, well, less of a crapshoot. The goaltending situation is definitely better with Marc-Andre Fleury in net, and I like having Lankinen as a backup – he could honestly be that long-term backup that’s strong enough to rotate regularly, but time will tell. Duncan Keith gets to retire comfortably up in Edmonton and his Hall of Fame call should come shortly thereafter.
Brent Seabrook’s contract, one of the worst arguably in NHL history (by bad luck standards, mostly) is finally going to be someone else’s problem. Bringing in Seth Jones should, well, help? The defense has gotten way better with Murphy being extended, McCabe bringing stability, and maybe we’ll see if Ian Mitchell and the other young guys keep growing into something useful. Jones should be infinitely more dynamic and athleticism than the clunky and useless Zadorav.
Jeremy Colliton is, eh, whatever as far as a coach goes. He’s fine. You could do way worse, but he’s not the guy to breathe life into a locker room. Colliton’s specialty is professionalism, and it shows, but not a brilliant strategist or difference maker. Similarly younger guys in jerseys are impressing, like DeBrincat and Dach for sure, but I’m hoping to see more from Brandon Hagel this season. I’m glad they kept him around. He’s one of those wild card dudes that makes the team interesting. Andrew Shaw used to be a wilder version of that, and it only cost him numerous concussions and a short NHL career. I miss prime Shaw. A beautiful firework of bodily sacrifice and often-useless violence.
Then there’s the weird final remnants of the cup teams in Toews and Kane. Kane can still go like hell, and as long as he’s surrounded by the right pieces his numbers will be mind-boggling. Toews, on the other hand, may play?….Maybe? Nobody really knows. His issues were very difficult to explain, much less read about online, and coupled with a career laden with nagging injuries/concussions and a pandemic, I’d be very surprised if he plays again. Who knows.
But that stuff is all on the ice. The larger, and more difficult to digest part, is the Aldrich situation. The Blackhawks dealing ignorantly and loosely with a sexual predator and blatant scumbag is really difficult to tolerate, much less compartmentalize. I’d be infinitely more comfortable with the situation if there was, at least at some point, a clear line of accountability drawn and those parties who were responsible, from top to bottom, be fired at best, incarcerated at worst.
That said, the team has made it pretty clear they will protect the brand before anything else, and the buck is going to be passed many, many times. It’s a gross feeling, one that isn’t easy whatsoever to ignore. It taints everything about the organization, at least for the present time, so my interest in the on-ice product will be dampened for the foreseeable future.
On a lesser note, it’s probably also time the team really considered a rebrand. I love the logo, I love the Blackhawks uniforms (collar aside), but I mean, it’s just time. The world is in a different place and we all need to move on from any Native American imagery. It sucks, as they can be beautiful designs, but it’s a distraction, and has been for years. Be done with it. Just don’t end up looking like the Winterhawks.
The Bears regular season kicks off in a week, and…I dunno. The team seems destined to go 8-9 (weird to type that out), and shoot themselves in the foot at every available opportunity. The defense has some bright spots, but the secondary is pretty underwhelming, the linebackers are a question mark, and health seems to be a perpetual problem on that side of the ball.
Andy Dalton should be, ugh, fine I guess. Justin Fields is clearly going to take over at some point during this season, and it can’t come soon enough. He’s the future, and considering the state of the rest of the offense, particularly the offensive line, you need his mobility and dynamic variables to convert first downs, much less score touchdowns, a possibility in Matt Nagy’s offense.
That offense, by the by, has been figured out and destroyed by defensive coordinators around the NFL. Nagy calling the offense is a detriment, and it baffles me how he has failed to read the room time and time again. He’s about as far from cerebral as it gets, but he’s also too cute to call a meatball scheme. So he lingers in this middle of the road system that wants to do more than it’s capable of, but often defaults to dull plays because that’s all the offense can put together most of the time.
There’s some promise with Robinson, Montgomery, Kmet, Mooney, and others, but the offensive line is so damned bad, at least a glance. They brought in 40-year-old Justin Peters (had nothing to do with the injury to rookie Teven Jenkins), are relying on James Daniels (injuries becoming all-too regular a thing with him), Cody Whitehair (hasn’t consistently played a position since he’s been in the league, but has been above-average at all of them), Sam Mustipher (had a great rookie season, but was it a fluke?), and Germain Ifedi (injuries nag him still). It’s a rope bridge that cannot take any strain without collapsing.
Larry Borom is an interesting rookie, but are you really comfortable making him your starting left tackle if Peters sucks/gets hurt? Or are you going to screw around and make him the right tackle if Ifedi goes down? It seems like the perpetual curse of Pace OL draft picks to play ALL THE POSITIONS and never develop at any of them for any consistent length of time. It’s getting so very old.
And speaking of Pace, he and the entire Bears brass has exhausted me beyond my limits. The guy is a master of saying a lot of words, but also saying nothing. They’re all insulting of everyone’s collective intelligence, and the team is never going to win a Super Bowl with them in place. It’s just not gonna happen.
The Bears are exhausting. Typing even this little bit about them has been taxing. I can’t wait to devote a few hours each Sunday to see how much more of my soul and joy they can sap out of me. Hooray, football!